A web camera, or webcam, lets you keep up with the people in your life through video chat, record video to share online or with friends, and stream live video. When shopping for a web camera, pay attention to frame rate, resolution, auto focus, the microphone, any video effects software available, the lens and the overall construction.
A web camera's frame rate, measured in frames per second (fps), is the number of still images shown in one second of video or animation. A higher frame rate results in a smoother video.
Resolution is the number of pixels in columns and rows that form a digital picture. For example, 1600 x 1200 is a display with 1600-pixel columns and 1200-pixel rows, which would be equal to the resolution of a 2-megapixel camera. A webcam with a higher resolution will record clearer images.
A web camera with auto focus automatically tracks its subject's movement and refocuses the image regardless of distance.
A webcam's microphone is a small, often unnoticeable feature that records audio. Most web cameras with built-in microphones have one on each side.
Video effects can be used to manipulate images. Most web cameras come with video effects software installed, but many manufacturers also offer other effects software for download on their websites.
Web camera lenses are made from glass or plastic. Plastic lenses are adequate for basic video calls, but the images produced may be blurry or slightly warped. A glass lens gives you a clearer picture and doesn't scratch as easily.
The casing of a web camera may be made of plastic, metal or a combination. Plastic is fine for everyday use, but all-metal webcams tend to be more durable.
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